How To Start Seeds Indoors
Growing your own food supply can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for anyone. With the proper setup and perseverance, even a newbie can start growing seedlings indoors. You don’t need to invest in a greenhouse. Just some space in your home will do.
Starting seeds indoors can be quite beneficial. You can start growing seedlings indoors early spring and plant outdoors when it’s warm enough for them to survive. Indoor seed starting gives your plants a head-start on the growing season.
When To Start Seeds Indoors
Here’s an easy way to create an indoor seed starting schedule for any planting zone. Start by finding the last frost date for your planting zone. All you need to know is your zip code. Use this link to enter your zip code.
Check the back of your seed packets for the number of weeks to start before the last frost date. If your seed packet doesn’t have this information just do a search for Your Seed Name with the words “Seed Starting Date”.
Next count back on a calendar the number of weeks before the last frost date and write that on each the seed pack.
Quick Start Seed Germination Using The Paper Towel Method
The paper towel seed germination, also known as the baggie method, is one way to start seeds indoors. It gives you control on seeds that are difficult to germinate and it lets you observe even the earliest stages of germination. It works really well for chili, pepper, tomato and other seeds that require constant heat for germination because you can put the baggie anywhere you want like near a heating vent for example. It’s very easy to do and the materials needed are usually readily available in your homes. This method is also applicable to coffee filters and even newsprint.
What you need:
- Paper Towels (or coffee filters, newsprint) as needed
- Ziploc bags or sandwich bags
- Seeds, of course
- Pencil (optional)
- Straw (optional)
Here’s how to do it:
1. (Skip this step if you’re using coffee filters) Cut the paper towels (or newsprint) to sizes of 12 to 16 inches. If you have the brown ones, it would be a slight advantage over the soft and absorbent paper towels. This is because they are firm and will hold less water than the absorbent ones which may drown the seeds. Plus, the softer paper towels make the seedlings a bit harder to remove because the roots of the seeds may bury themselves in the fibers. But whatever you have lying around will do. That’s the point of survival gardening anyway.
2. Wet the papers enough to make them damp. For the paper towels, you can lay them flat in 2 inches of water. Then, hold them up by grasping the corners. Let the excess water drain for about a minute.
3. Place the moist paper towel on a flat surface. Lay the seeds, evenly spaced, on the bottom half of the towel or coffee filter. A one-inch space between the seeds is enough to give space for their roots to grow.
4. Fold the upper half of the paper towel or coffee filter over the seeds.
5. Roll the paper towel into a tube. You can use a pencil as guide for this. But you can just simply slide the paper towel or coffee filter inside the baggy. You can also add a few drops of water inside the baggy before placing the paper towel inside.
6. After slipping the paper towels inside the baggies, you can blow some air inside it to make them grow faster. You can use a straw for this.
7. Seal the baggy to lock in the moisture. Or you can just keep the bags flat however you should not seal them up to allow air to flow inside.
8. Leave the baggies in a warm and humid area but keep them away from direct sunlight. A temperature of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. The laundry room is a good place for the baggies. Make sure that the insides of the bags are always moist.
9. Check the seeds after 3 days. If you kept the towels unfolded, you can easily see if the seeds have already sprouted. But you can also remove each paper towel and unfold them to check the seeds. Carefully remove the seeds that are ready to be transplanted (maybe if the sprouted seeds are about 2 inches long). Refold the paper towels and put them back inside their baggies.
You can also watch this video: Germinating Seeds in Paper Towels
How to Build a Cheap Grow Light Out of PVC
Starting seeds indoors will give your plants ahead start on the growing season. You can build this cheap grow light that will rival grow lights that are much more expensive as long as you only plan to use it for seedlings.
What you need:
- Shop light
- 6500K Florescent Light bulbs
- 2 – 10′ lengths of 1″ PVC pipe
- 2 – 1″ PVC tees
- 6 – 1″PVC elbows
How to build the frame:
Using a hack saw or PVC cutters, cut the 10′ pieces of PVC pipe into the following lengths: three 48-1/2″ pieces, two 20″ pieces, and four 9-3/4″ pieces
Assemble the PVC components just like in the picture below.
You do not need to glue the sections together. It’s better if you don’t so it can be taken apart and stored for next season. Hang the lights about an inch above the plants with the chain that comes with it. You can raise the height of the shop light as your plant grows. This size frame will allow a standard 10″ x 20″ seed tray to fit sideways allowing more seed starts. Your finished product should look something like this:
How to Make Your Own Seed-starter Mix
A good seed-starter mix has the following qualities:
1. It can retain moisture.
2. It can keep the right amount of water and drain the excess.
3. It allows air to flow.
4. It allows roots to penetrate downward and seedlings to grow upward.
5. It contains the right amount of nutrients and microbes to help the seeds grow.
A basic seed starter mix is a combination of:
- 6 parts sphagnum peat moss (or coconut coir)
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part vermiculite
For an enriched mixture, you can change it to 4 parts sphagnum peat moss and 2 parts vermicompost or compost. Combine these ingredients into a container, say a bucket, and moisten the mixture.
Spaghnum peat moss or coconut coir provide most of the moisture retention and it also keeps everything together just like a glue. Perlite provides drainage is good for aeration while vermiculite keepss the soil structure intact. Both of them retain water well. Finally, the compost or vermicompost also possesses these characteristics but at the same time provides nutrients to improve the overall health of the seedlimgs.
Best Seed Starting Sources For Sustainable Living
Check out the following seed source websites for starting seeds indoors.
“Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. “
2. Kitazawa Seed Co.
“Kitazawa Seed Company is the oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian vegetable seeds. “
“All of our Seeds are Open-Pollinated (Non-GMO, Seed-Saver Friendly).”
“America’s Top Source for Pure Heirloom Seeds, Baker Creek carries one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties. “
“Southern Exposure Seed Exchange offers more than 700 varieties of vegetable, flower, herb, grain and cover crop seeds, emphasizing varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.”
“Fedco provides cold-hardy varieties shipped in season, and gardening supplies year-round.”
“Our products include vegetable seeds; medicinal and culinary herb seeds; flower seeds; cover crops, farm seed, and pasture mixes; fruit plants and seeds, and high quality, problem-solving tools and supplies.”
8. Stokes Seeds
“Stokes Seeds is a distributor of flower, vegetable, and herb seeds as well as many garden accessories to customers throughout North America.”
“Conventional, Organic, Heirloom & Hybrid Seeds for Professional and Garden Growers of All Sizes.”
10. Turtletree Seed
“Turtle Tree Seed is the oldest biodynamic seed company in the United States.”
“A family owned and operated business since 1979, Pinetree Garden Seeds was founded with the simple mission of offering low prices on quality seeds to the home gardener.”